Archive for the 'home improvement' Category

Uprighting a Drooped Ocotillo

Before and After

About two years ago, we acquired a couple of new ocotillos for the rock and cactus garden. One of them, sadly, did not completely assimilate itself on the rocky slope where we planted it. The shrub eventually sagged, leaning downhill until finally last week we noticed it was completely drooped on its side and in contact with the ground.

This morning, I decided to move the drooping shrub to a nearby, flatter location and to set it more upright. I dug out the base of the ocotillo from the sloped location, dug a hole in which to insert the big guy and plopped it down into its new location. I used a rope and some of my old Navy knots to hold it upright while I shoveled the dirt back down on its roots.

Now, hopefully, the ocotillo will recover, spread out its canes and become an attractive xeriscape asset to The Better Half’s rock and cactus garden. By the way, the other transplant is doing just fine.

Clickable image: Before and After.

LED There Be Light

LED Fixture Installed

Over six years ago, we bought a couple of fluorescent light fixtures for the garage as the house was being built. Each fixture had two four foot tubes and the ballast, starter, etc. As we look back at getting these lights, we recall settling for a cheap house brand from one of the big home improvement stores in Surprise, AZ.

Last week, one of the tubes in one of the fixtures crapped out. We were going to get a replacement tube, but when trying to remove the diffuser, it broke. At that time we also noticed that one of the plastic parts containing the electrodes on the end of the tube was broken away from the housing. We made the decision to upgrade the fixtures to a more modern solution.

We opted for a couple of LED fixtures available from Amazon.

  • 4-Foot LED linear flush mount features an impact-resistant polycarbonate diffuser with brushed nickel cast aluminum decorative end caps
  • Integrated LED provides 3,460 lumens and 4000K cool white color temperature
  • Energy star-certified and listed for damp locations
  • UL-listed to US and Canadian safety standards
  • Delivers general ambient lighting for surface-mount ceiling applications

Installation was pretty simple, really, with toggle bolts holding the frame to the ceiling and wire nuts making the electrical connections. The fixtures are better looking than the ones they replaced and put out as much or more light with a similar color temperature.

The Better Half helped with the installation and took the (clickable) image above and the inset while I was preparing the house wiring to receive the new connections.

Updated Aerial View

2017 Aerial View

Last June we posted an updated aerial shot of the homestead courtesy of the Maricopa County Assessor’s website. I was surprised to see an update for 2017 of our property, but here it is. There is not much changed from the last aerial except this time, the RV is not parked in its spot behind the garage and the runoff creek on the west side of the property is clearly complete in the new photo.

There are some other minor things that appear in the comparison of the last versus the current including some changes to the shrubbery in the courtyard and elsewhere. We are still a work in progress on a smaller scale, but even those are important to us. We have a project of bringing rocks to the east of the driveway to keep the monsoon runoff from undermining the concrete on that side. That should be complete before the summertime, so we should be OK there.

It has been interesting to watch the progress we have made since first starting to build the house in 2010. We may never be “absolutely complete,” but we’re asymptotically approaching that point.

Palo Verde Tree Trim

Palo Verde Tree Trim

Now that the warmer days of 2016 are behind us, The Better Half and I can start to address some of our outdoor chores. Last Friday, we took the chain saw to some branches we removed from a mesquite tree that was potentially blocking the RV Drive access. We cut up the big wood and stacked it to dry for firewood while we cut the smaller branches and twigs to be stowed in the waste bin until the town refuse collection truck came on Monday.

Today, we removed a couple of lower branches from the palo verde by the road in front. Those two were encroaching on the roadway and we decided to remove them and encourage the tree to grow up and not out. I had a false start when I went after the first branch when the chain jumped out of the track in the guide blade. That took a little while to fetch the tools and correct the problem.

I took before and after photos of the tree and combined them into the (clickable) panorama above. The other low branch (behind the bird house in the photo) will be coming off after the year-end holidays. It is also too low if we want the tree to grow taller.

We also started winterizing the spa on the patio. The water is drained from the tub and we just have to blow the residual water out of the plastic pipes internal to the pump, etc. We’re not expecting a freeze anytime soon, but we figured it’s best to have it ready before the first cold night of fall/winter.

RV Barn Project - Application Phase

Survey Results

The RV Barn is one step closer to the intermediate goal of combining the two parcels into one. We submitted the application, the fee and the required documents to the town planner today. I spoke with the planner on the phone today and he said he would be looking the package over this week. That effectively completes the first three bullets in the list below:

  • provide proof of ownership Check
  • provide a legal survey with proposed property description Check
  • provide the town’s fee for the service Check
  • await town approval before proceeding
  • arrange for the title company to issue a new property deed

Now, we wait for the town to process the application. I have not contacted the title company yet, but will be doing so later this week. I wanted to give them advance notice of our project to get them to provide information on what we need to provide, what their fee will be and whatever else.

The image above is illegible, I know and that is intentional. I only used a very small copy of the survey results to illustrate that the surveyor gave us a complete package for our investment without compromising personal information.

The RV Barn Project - Survey Phase

Survey Crew

We passed another milestone in the RV Barn Project today. The land surveyor showed up with an assistant and proceeded to locate each corner of the existing parcels that we wish to combine into one.

I have witnessed surveyors in my youth, where they bring a transit and one guy holds a pole with markings while the other guy peers through the transit to determine angles, elevations and distance between points. Today, however, they brought a couple of modern land surveying instruments on tripods (seen in the clickable image above) and only carried another instrument on a pole to the various points they located where they recorded some data.

I presume (I didn’t ask questions since they were very business like and worked quickly) that they get data from their gadgetry and run it through a computer to plot the actual property lines and produce the “legal description” of the property. Times are always changing for better technology. They showed up at 9:00 AM and were gone by 11:30 AM.

The next step will be to present the revised legal description for the combined parcels to the Town Planner for approval. When we get the approval, we can then go to the Title Company to draw up the deed transferring the two parcels to ourselves as a single parcel.

RV Barn Update

Similar RV Barn

We’re one step closer to getting our RV barn in the works. We got a message from the Surveyor telling us that our “legal property description” is likely to be completed this week. The next step will be to take the current deeds and the new description to the town planner for approval. After that, the work can be started while we’re getting the local title company to draw up the new deed for the combined parcels.

I found the barn above doing an image search on “RV Garage.” The structure in the picture is close to what we have in mind, being a ‘territorial’ or ‘Santa Fe’ style building. Picture no windows and a larger building width (30×40 feet) with dual porch lights on the front. We have already contacted the contractor who built our house and the ball is in his court for providing us with an estimate.

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